This book is intended to serve as a guide for those seeking to explore the subject of New York City's government. Like most good guidebooks, it aims to be useful for those visiting for the first time, those on return sojourns, and even for natives willing to view their city from a new vantage.
There are two essential elements for a successful guidebook. The first is abundant information. But for the politically oriented, the key facts and figures are not hotel addresses and rates, restaurant menus, or museum fees and hours. Instead the key descriptors of governmental arrangements include the number, terms, and authority of various elected officials, the size of agency budgets and payrolls, and the procedures for reaching authoritative decisions. This information is presented in the following chapters, but it would be far less interesting and far less useful without the second ingredient of this guidebook.
Information about a city's political life, like its cultural or culinary attractions, should be presented with a point of view that reflects the guide's judgment. This book has a point of view about municipal politics, and readers are apt to like or dislike it depending on whether they share the authors' views. The chapters that follow are rooted in the belief that New York City's government, like all such public entities, should be judged on two standards-- efficiency and responsiveness. Municipal government should respond to the preferences of its citizens in a democratic fashion, and it should perform its selected tasks in a manner that delivers the greatest results while extracting the smallest tax burden.
Imposing this dual standard on city politics means that politics and policy cannot be separated. Simply knowing if the political process works in accord